Contrary to what many people think, Sparkling Wine isn’t just champagne. It is simply a wine (usually a white wine such as a chardonnay pinot) that has a significant level of carbon dioxide in it, which gives it its fizzy texture and appearance. This carbon dioxide can come from the natural secondary fermentation process during production (which is a traditional method), or the winemaker can actually inject carbon dioxide into it.
There are numerous varieties produced in many different countries, but the variety produced in the Champagne region of France is by far the best known, which is where the term champagne comes from. However, since 1985, only the wines produced in that region have been allowed to call themselves and sold as champagne.
History of Champagne
The Romans were the inhabitants of the Champagne region to plant vineyards. Due to the relatively cooler climate, the cold winters in the area would stop the secondary fermentation in the cellars. The yeast cells would become dormant, but with the warmer weather of spring, they would reactivate and secondary fermentation would start again. As a result of this reactivation, carbon dioxide gas is produced but is trapped inside the bottle, which can produce pressures as high as 6 atmospheres and can even cause the bottle to explode if it is not strong enough. Initially, this was seen as an imperfection. As late as the 17th century, the Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon, whom one of the most famous vintage champagne is named after, was still trying to get rid of the bubbles in their wines. However, the British took a liking to this new bubbly wine. Once new technology allowed for much stronger bottles, the champagne industry was born, and the Champagne houses of Krug, Pommery and Bollinger grew.
Today, the region produces more than 200 million bottles, and is increasingly difficult to keep up with global demand for actual champagne.
Sparkling Wines Around The World
Today, there are numerous countries producing their own sparkling wines. Here’s a sample of what you will find around the world:
1) Spain – the type produced by the Spanish is given the term “Cava” and is produced mostly in the Catalonia region. The sparkling wines produced here tend to be very white to light pink in colour
2) Portugal – The Portuguese version is called “Espumante” and is produced throughout the north and the south regions of the country. The southern region is renown for its aridness and extremes of temperature, but this does not seem to have an effect on the sparkling wine that is produced
3) Italy – Italian sparkling wines are made throughout the country, but the most popular wines seen around the world tend to be from the more northern regions, such as Piedmont (Asti), Lombardy (Franciacorta), Emilia (Lambrusco) and Veneto (Prosecco).
4) Germany – The German term for sparkling wine is called “Sekt”, and is made using traditional methods (ie not injecting CO2). However, about 90% of Sekt that is produced using imported wines from Italy, France and Spain.
5) America – Sparkling wine produced in the USA is usually produced in California. Although initially lower in quality, the sparkling wine industry in California started growing once foreign influences started using the more traditional grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot blanc varieties.
6) Australia – Although the more common varieties of sparkling wines are produced in Australia, the Australian specialty is Sparkling Shiraz, which is made from Shiraz grapes.
There are many other different regions around the world, all producing some fantastic sparkling wines. Remember, all champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all are champagnes! Remember this for your next New Year’s Eve party!